So when they open a picture book called “Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns,” kids learn about Muslim customs as told by a child living in an Islamic country.
It’s a charming little book, beautifully written and illustrated, in which the narrator tells children about her religion through the vibrant colors found in her homeland.
“It’s an indoctrination of Muslim culture,” the father of a McDowell Elementary School pupil told the Cobb County Board of Education recently. His wife purchased the book for his kindergarten daughter at the Scholastic Book Fair held at the school.
“My book is intended to indoctrinate children with the values of respect, tolerance, and curiosity about different traditions,” countered the book’s author Hena Khan in an unpublished letter to the Marietta Daily Journal.
“It might fill their heads with the notion that we are all more similar than we think, even if we have different customs and beliefs,” Khan adds. “And if I’m successful, it might convince them that their Muslim neighbor or schoolmate isn’t a ‘fanatical’ to be feared or hated, but part of a vibrant and diverse American society that should be celebrated.”
Since the world has 1.6 billion Muslims, 2.3 million of whom live in America, learning about the Muslim religion and culture can help American kids better appreciate the world’s diversity; that there is a big, interesting place out there beyond the borders of Cobb County. Through their appreciation, they begin to become more understanding and tolerant of those who live and pray differently than we do.
The father’s reaction suggests he’s steeped in the Muslim-bashing commonly seen and heard in the conservative media, which has portrayed all those who practice Islam as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.
This mentality is akin to the response after Pearl Harbor when American citizens of Japanese descent on the West Coast were summarily rounded up, deprived of their property, and transported to concentration camps for the duration of World War II.
Have we learned nothing from that tragic chapter of our history?
Are we still affixing blame on all members of an ethnic or religious group because some of their number did heinous things?
According to the MDJ’s Hannah Morgan, “At Thursday night’s school board meeting, (the father) brought the book and showed the board members the religious symbols, including a picture of the Quran, which he said disturbed him.”
And he was “disturbed” because…?
“I don’t want this culture around my children,” the father told the Cobb County School Board, “let’s get them educated first. Learn to read and write before we start teaching (about) the fanaticals,”
I guess it’s never too early to start inculcating intolerance, even if the child is a kindergartener. The father also claimed no other religions were represented at the book fair, but PTA President Abi Nesmith said books on Christianity and Judaism were on sale.
“I know they are trying to do a good thing, this just struck me as wrong,” the father added. “That culture there doesn’t seem to have anything good coming out of it.”
Actually, “that culture there” has contributed major advancements in mathematics, astronomy, medicine, commerce, music, art, literature and architecture. Cities in what is now Saudi Arabia had street lights and sewers when the father’s European ancestors were living in their own filth during the Dark Ages.
“I think it’s pretty clear that this book is by no means threatening to any faiths,” noted an MDJ reader. “Ignorance does exist but so do tolerance and love for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.